Colin McRae: DiRT 2, arrives at a busy time for the racing genre. However, the Colin McRae franchise has always looked at racing in a different light. There is a huge emphasis on Rallying and the action is very high octane. With this being the first game in the franchise to be released since his sad passing in 2007 have Codemasters pulled out all the stops to make sure it's the best experience to date. Do they take the checkered flag?
The game starts off by entering players into a semi-career mode. They can name their driver, choose a nationality and pick a nickname from an extensive list. After creating their driver, players are essentially left to their owns devices. They can wander around a small area, which includes their trailer and this is where they will be able to start new races on the DiRT Tour.
There are several racing events that are available to players and these range from very contact-based races featuring multiple cars to time trial rally stages. There are also some mini-game based modes such as Domination and Last Man Standing, which don't necessarily endorse the normal racing etiquette. On top of this there is also several types of cars to choose from, all with their own unique qualities. However, these are limited to use in specific events, making it easier for players to pick a suitable vehicle. There is an extensive amount of cars available for each race-class though, and they all have their pros and cons. This allows players to choose a car that suits their style and it creates a nice dynamic, as there is no one car that's better than any other. It all depends on the player and how they use what they're given. All of the cars can also have their looks modified, from liveries to even what sits on the dashboard.
Competing in events is the main component of the game and doing so earns cash and experience. It also affects a player's relationship with the other drivers which will alter how they react during races. As players gain experience they level up and more tracks and events will become available. Later on tournaments and World Tours also unlock, each requiring more specific conditions to be met. The relationship idea is fantastic and comm chatter can often be heard during races. These can be directed at other AI drivers, or the player themselves and the banter makes the action much more intense. Later on when players earn their respect, some races will require players to team up with another driver to work together to score points in a race. This helps to add a somewhat tactical element to the gameplay as it stops players "accidently" relegating their team mate to last place during a race.
Every race just feels spot on. There's a degree of raw intensity that's extremely difficult to describe, but it's safe to say that Codemasters have really outdone themselves. They've adopted a bit of creative licence with the actual events, but this simply reflects the way Rally racing is going, but as far as the action goes everything feels really slick and smooth. There are so many little touches which really help to complete the experience, like like the windscreen wipers coming on clear the windscreen, and it makes the whole experience extremely fulfilling.Collisions are breathtaking and the damage looks great in real-time. It doesn't look as fluid in slow-motion, but that's a small concession. It does lead on to one of DiRT 2's more unique features though, the ability to replay the last few moments of gameplay, and redo it. Flashback allows a race-ending crash to be completely prevented, although it can only be used a limited amount of times. Of course players don't have to use it, but it can make that deadly mistake go away all too easily. That said, it does actually give players a far easier way to learn the tracks, whereby accidently taking a corner incorrectly gives players a moment to reflect upon where they went wrong.
Of all the events featured in the game, and the increased diversity that they represent, the most entertaining is arguably the actual rallying. It's extremely fun to fly around corners with a co-driver giving verbal directions and it's one of the highlights of DiRT 2. However, it's not perfect as the dynamic co-driver isn't always on the ball. For example, after doing a barrel roll, the co-driver said "Don't worry it's just a scratch". These are minor issues though, and the actual route mapping works perfectly.
DiRT 2 looks and feels great. It has beautiful lighting and the damage physics means that debris is left everywhere on the track. The venues themselves are also very detailed and each track feels completely unique. The sound is also an area where DiRT 2 excels, as the cars just sound fantastic. The addition of voice acting from professional drivers, and the licenced soundtrack just help to complete the package's stellar presentation.
Alongside the gulf of offline events, there is also a fully functioning multiplayer component. However, this comes at the expense of split-screen multiplayer. To compensate, it's possible to do a system-link with up to 7 other systems so the game can still be played locally. All of the race modes are available and they can be customised to create the ultimate race. The quality is also maintained, and no concessions have been made to accomodate the mutliplayer mode - everything still looks and plays the same.
As an extra challenge, those looking for more of a hardcore racing game still have various challenges and simulation elements to enjoy. There are a grand total of 6 difficulty settings with the highest being more than difficult enough to challenge the best. It removes the flashback ability and really ramps up the difficulty of the AI drivers. As well as this, there is more freedom to mess around with the internal workings of cars and although the changes are limited to 5 positions, players can alter gear ratio, downforce, suspension, ride height, differential, and the brake bias of their chosen vehicles.
Colin McRae: DiRT 2 offers a truly excellent experience and there is a ton of content available for players . It's represented really well, and the only faults that can be found with the game are minor. While crashes look spectacular, it's unfortunately not possible to save these moments and sharing becomes quite difficult. However, for those looking for a new racing fix, the action on offer in DiRT 2 will definitely see players wanting to keep coming back for more.